Platform 4a & 4b archive

My older 4mm scale, EM gauge portable layout, Platform 4a & 4b, is still in existence and currently stored under the baseboards of my new fixed N scale layout. I will bring it out again in a few years’ time after it has been overhauled and repaired. The exhibition circuit does take its toll on layouts: all that shoving into cars and vans, bumping around up and down the A9 Highland road to expos and then rushing it in and out of halls, often when raining. It has not faired too badly and will be ready for display in a few years, once again.

The stock has been retained and will get out and about on my new scenic test track layout being built on the top (third) deck of the home layout. Here’s some pictures of the layout which were once posted on my old web site. It is a model, with much selective compression to fit 13-ish feet including fiddle yard,  of the suburban platforms at Reading. I even named it ‘Dreading’!

My 4-BEP unit leaves the station – a hybrid model involving MJT sides and some parts by A1 Models. A lovely unit – three decoders for working lights. That livery was such a pain to paint. So I did a second one…

A 4-CIG unit No.1392, a former Portsmouth line 4-BIG unit with a CEP trailer inserted instead of the BIG buffet car. I have kept the sides from the 4-BIG buffet set kit (by MJT) which was used to create this model. That is being built into the car used in Hastings Diesels’ thumper No.1001, the preserved 6/7-car Hastings unit currently under construction OMWB. The CEP trailer in the 4-CIG above is by A1 Models.

What model (caricature) if Reading would be complete without a model or two of Thames Turbos? That is a Class 165 2-car set modelled from a Class 166.

More ‘Turbos’: 165125 and 166202. Both are based on Bachmann models and feature full lighting and decoders in each car.


The layout design included a piece of running line representing the Great Western main line Down fast line through Platform 4. It was modelled as a dummy line and always had a static display on it at shows either of a FGW Class 57 and Mk.2s or a mail train with a PCV and Super GUVs. The line was powered for a short section so locomotive lights would be functional.

For such a small portable layout, an impression of main line action was surprisingly easy to achieve, just for the fun of it. The secret is not to fill a layout of this size with too much track.

I managed to squeeze in some large civil engineering features too, such as this length of arches with the running line on top.

My white Phase 1 4-CIG got out from time to time too. Whilst numbered 1742, a Ramsgate unit when painted white, the layout was the only home for my extensive collection of 4mm scale ‘slammers’ for a very long time. The building of my new fixed EM gauge home layout, which is 18ft by 12 ft in size, will give them somewhere to run on a regular basis.

A Class 456 inner suburban unit constructed from a Bratchell Models kit. Wow, but that was an expensive plastic kit – drives, wheels etc are all additional costs…I have second to build and they might form the basis of a future portable layout theme.

A liquid Delivery Unit…I know of one lady modeller whom became very excited at the thought of an LDE – I have not a clue why…no names, no pack drill here; but she knows who she is! I wonder if she reads my stuff?

Up on the arches again – one of my favourite parts of the layout. I could further improve it I think, when the layout is refurbished.

A departure for Shalford departs in the form of 165125. The signal gantry is modelled on the real thing at Reading.

What model based on the third rail territory would be complete without a Crompton (Class 33)?


A Class 57 awaits the road with an Up train on Platform 4. Given that this loco no longer fitted my operating needs, it was recently and regrettably sold to make way for another Class 57…guess which one?


The end of the layout showing the short track representing the main line. As a layout concept, it worked surprisingly well and was interesting to operate. The layout won a trophy at the big Model Rail exhibition at the SECC in 2007 for best use of DCC.



Ready for transport in the back of a Ford Focus – it all fits very neatly, including the fiddle yard!



Highlight for Platform 4a & 4b was its use in the Activity Media Right Track DVDs featuring Digital Command Control (DCC).  The filming work was done by Chris Walsh and sound engineering by Wendy. I presented both DVDs with Tony Wright. I don’t think Tony will ever really ‘get’ DCC!


That’s Wendy! At the controls. Calling out instructions!

The layout made a lovely back drop to presentations. Tony does a spiel previewing a forthcoming DVD. Note the fab curtains! This building is now occupied by Tony Wright’s huge OO gauge ‘Little Bytham’ layout. Amazing to think my humble Platform 4a & 4b inhabited it for a while, at least for the four days of filming. Little Bytham has some big boots to fill (only joking).


I enjoyed the filming experience, after a nervous start on the first day. I soon forgot the cameras and got into DCC and banter with Tony. It was a lot of fun and I would do it again, without hesitation!


The control set up…

Playing trains…consisting with DCC: two Class 33s on a ballast working.

Layout specifications: The information sheet I provided to exhibition managers:

Platform 4a and 4b Features:

  • Presented to enable demonstration of state-of-the-art technology including DCC controllers, sound, point control systems and lighting.
  • Scratch built and kit built stock including 3rd rail EMUs in modern liveries
  • Operated from the front for maximum interaction with exhibition visitors.

Layout details and other information:

Platform 4a & 4b was designed and built as an exhibition demonstration layout to be used to show the principles of fine scale D&E modelling. This layout is used as a scenic setting to display models of multiple unit stock built from kits, extensively modified from rtr base models or that have an unusual features such as door warning lights. The layout is relatively compact; the emphasis is on slow control, shunting and prototypical operation. It demonstrates that interesting operations can be achieved from a small space typically found in the modern home, hopefully providing others with inspiration.

It is based on the “bitsa station” approach, not in the manner normally associated with several well-known modellers in which the throat or station approaches are modelled together with the platform ends but by representing just two bay platform roads of a larger mainline station.

Prototype basis:

Reading is the inspiration for this model where the services from Waterloo and Redhill / Gatwick all operate from two short platform roads on either side of an island platform (known as the Wokingham Platforms) at the London end of the station. Operations are very intense with upwards of eight arrivals / departures an hour that utilised a variety of stock including Class 165/166, 4-VEP, 4-CEP, 4-CIG sets. Since 2003, 4Jop units have displaced the older slam door stock.

The two platform roads come together to form a very short stretch of single track literally a few metres long before diverging back into two tracks, the up and the down lines. The line then runs down an incline for about ¼ to ½ mile before the single lead line from the main GWR route joins and past the site of the old underpass freight line. The line then peels away from the GWR route to cross the River Kennet towards Earley, Winnersh and Wokingham. It is at Wokingham that the electrified Waterloo lines via Ascot diverge from the non-electrified Guildford route.

The new Reading platforms replaced the old SR station in 1965 which was located beside the main GWR station. Because the line leading up to the Wokingham line platforms is double track from the junction, then singles, it can be described as a branch line albeit a very short one!

An interesting feature is the milepost at the end of the platform – 68miles. It is 68miles to Charing Cross station from Reading via Wokingham (apparently), 43miles to Waterloo and 36miles to Paddington.


In designing the layout, I have thrown in a modification to the track plan by moving two existing berthing sidings located further down the bank from the station so they are adjacent to the platforms. Intense operating sequences can be run using a Lenz Set 100 DCC system, making the layout ideal for the display of a large and diverse collection of NSE, SWT and departmental multiple units. As for the layout name, the choice was simple…make it relatively non-specific and the layout could be based on any location or route on the former Southern Region.


  • Total baseboard length: 13ft – straight format.
  • Total baseboard width: 2 ft.
  • Scale: 4mm.
  • Gauge: EM.
  • Era: post 1990.
  • It is equipped with its own lights, support and drapes, in effect, it is self contained.
  • It could be positioned flat against a wall as it is viewed from one side only and operated from the front.
  • One mains socket is required.
  • No barriers are required.
  • Insurance value is £4500 for the layout and £3500 for locomotives/rolling stock.
  • Available for exhibition anywhere in the UK assuming travelling expenses are agreed and met before the show.
  • No van hire required – transport is usually in one car for shows local to the Highlands (up to 100 miles from Nairn and two cars if additional operators are required.

Using my own car – expenses are typically £20 – £80 per weekend to cover fuel and running costs – depending on distance together with travelling or car costs for a second operator for certain busy shows. For distances of less than 70 miles, I would prefer to travel to and from the exhibition on both days, eliminating the need for accommodation. Two operators are normally required for a weekend.

Layout is designed to be operated from the front so an additional 4 to 5 ft is required. Two tables are required for the displays that complement the layout.


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